From the battlefield to the cage – Ukrainian champion Amosov returns
STOCKHOLM, Feb 20 (Reuters) – When Ukrainian MMA fighter Yaroslav Amosov defeated Douglas Lima to win Bellator’s welterweight title in June 2021, little did he know that defending his belt would take second place should he be Home village of Irpin defended from Russian invasion.
He is making his long-awaited return to mixed martial arts to face American Logan Storley in a title match in Dublin next Saturday, a year and a day after Russia’s “special operation” saw him give up his sporting career to to join the military.
“I feel the great support of the Ukrainian people. I have a lot of support and it gives me a lot of strength,” he told Reuters in a Zoom interview from Dublin, where he is training for the event.
“I am very grateful to our people for supporting me in this way and I will do everything to please my nation.”
The 29-year-old’s combat experience was strictly limited to the cage before he committed himself to defending his hometown, first taking his family to safety before returning to Irpin to take part in the battle to drive out the Russian invaders.
“At first I wanted them (the family) to go with my friends’ families, but there were too many people, children and there was a lot of danger, so my friends and I made the decision that we’d take them out on our own and then come on back,” he explained.
“Because there was a lot of traffic, there was a very big traffic jam. I was behind the wheel for 36 hours.”
Despite his undoubted hand-to-hand combat skills, Amosov had to learn battlefield tactics and weapon handling before joining the fight.
“Before this (the war), I had no military training and I tried not to touch the guns — although I might like the way they looked, I tried not to touch them,” he said.
“I think like any person, when you first get into military activity, you have to get used to it first.”
A video of Amosov retrieving his championship belt from his mother’s house after the liberation of Irpin, released on April 1 last year, went viral and became a symbol of relief among his fellow citizens.
“Everyone was glad that the occupation was over and many people could go out, they could just eat and drink and not be afraid of being shot,” Amosov said, adding that the war was of course not over yet.
“SOMETIMES THEY MET Kyiv”
“There is no hostilities (in Irpin), everything is normal, but nobody knows … sometimes (Russians) launch rockets that can still hit, and if you watch the news you can see that sometimes they hit Kiev and other cities in our country.
“Sometimes you can just meet an ordinary civilian house, where people just live, sleep, do their own thing, where there is no military activity and it is not a military facility, just peaceful cities where the people just live,” he added.
Amosov pulled out of a scheduled title fight with Britain’s Michael Page scheduled for May 13 last year to continue his military service, allowing Storley to step in. He beat Page to win the interim title via split decision.
Amosov and Storley will now be at stake for the second time in Dublin with the undisputed title at stake and the Ukrainian says his layoff from MMA while fighting for his country will not affect him.
“If I was about 20 years old, it probably would have made a difference that I didn’t fight for a year,” he said.
“But now I’m 29 and I’ve fought a lot in different competitions and gained a lot of experience and now it won’t be a problem for me.”
Reporting by Philip O’Connor; Editing by Ken Ferris
Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.